Canadian-born dramatic tenor Jon Vickers has died at the age of 88. Nicknamed “God’s Tenor,” Vickers was celebrated for his powerful voice and renowned for his unshakable Christian faith.
Vickers passed on Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was commonly thought of as one of the world’s greatest Opera singers with a career that dominated three decades and saw him tackle challenging, legendary roles — cementing him in history as one of the greats.
The late tenor was born in 1926 in rural Saskatchewan. He studied at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto after having been awarded a prestigious scholarship at the tender age of 24. In 1956, he auditioned upon invitation at the Royal Opera House in London where he bagged his debut role. After which, his career skyrocketed.
His signature role as Siegmund in Wagner’s Die Walkuere (The Valkyrie) came in 1958 at the Bayreuth Festival. The 60’s were his best years professionally when he appeared as Tristan in Tristan and Isolde in New York and also portrayed Peter Grimes.
A moral man, Vickers refused certain performances that clashed with his religious practices, lending him great respect amongst his peers and contemporaries. He pulled out of performing in Wagner’s Tannhauser because of it’s anti-Christian sentiment.
BBC News reports that he was awarded many achievements during his lifetime including a Companion of the Order of Canada and two Grammys. He went on to retire in 1988 after a long and glittering career.
He initially intended to study medicine but his scholarship swayed his decision. He had a passion for performing in school choirs as a child which shaped his unique voice and undeniable talent. The Daily Mail reports that he was well known for having said, “Art is a wrestling with the meaning of life.”
Vickers, whose wife passed back in 1991, leaves behind five children, eleven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a sister. He struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for some time before his death.